5 tips for writing online headlines…

11 Oct

AS PART of the BA (hons) Journalism course here at UCLan, we delve into a module called Digital Journalism, which takes a look at optimising the internet for Journalistic use.

In last week’s workshop, we looked at effective headline writing for the web, and an article by “the guru of web usability” Jakob Nielsen.

We were set the task of writing five tips for the perfect headline.

Rule No.1 – and in my opinion, the most important, reveal as much information as possible. A lot of the time, be it RSS feeds, or one your mobile phone, the headline will be all you see, it needs to sell you the entire story in a sentence.

Rule No.2 – it should be understandable out of context, as referred to in my first rule, sometimes people don’t have the time to consume the entire story, at times a headline is all they will see, it needs to be understandable and revealing.

Rule No.3 – and in my opinion the most important, for the internet. The headline needs to optimise search engines. Headlines with words such as ‘a’, ‘the’ are pointless, as engines such as Google will simply filter it out; which leads me onto Rule No. 4.

Rule No.4 – make every single word count. Use ‘4’ instead of ‘four’, ‘PM’ instead of ‘prime minister’. Save every character, make it count. Use as few words as possible.

Rule No.5 – the headline should be front-loaded with information, for me personally this is paramount. Due to my wannabe i-Phone, ‘Samsung Omnia; when visiting an RSS feed, I can’t see the entire headline, so in order to get a real gist for the story, I need the key information immediately. This is true on the web too, as those in a hurry won’t hasten to skip by a headline which is too lengthy to read.

Feel free to comment whether you agree, or indeed disagree!

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